Personal Essays by Gay Dads

This Dad Went 'Numb' After a Painful Failed Adoption, But Learned to Love Again

After a painful failed adoption that brought these gay dads to the brink of realizing their dream of fatherhood, Paul "went numb" for several months before trying, and succeeding, again

In the fall of 2010, what was suppose to be a non-committal daytime date in Seattle, ended up being 3 days of sharing life experiences, unpacking emotional luggage and the moment I realized I had met my future husband. Just under four years later, we were saying "I Do", and became Paul and Jamie Trudel-Payne.

Jamie, a devilishly handsome All-American freelance writer, came from a tightly woven, kind and virtuous household. While I, Paul, a cute (ish) bi-racial (Mexican/Caucasian) small business owner, came from a somewhat intrusive, rambunctious and very large Hispanic family. The desire and support received from both families was immense and just six months after being married, we began the adoption process.

Wearing rose-colored glasses we quickly learned that our adoption journey was going to be anything but rosy.


We threw everything we had at our profile: Jamie's writing skills to make a deep connection to a Birthmother, and my marketing skills with a highly sought after professional photographer. We were matched after only a few months, and began talking to a birthmother who was 6 months pregnant with a baby girl. The fairytale started in hyper-speed and we were decorating a nursery, filling her closet with every adorable little girl outfit we came into contact with and fighting over baby names just like every other parent-to-be.

There were some red flags along the way that we blindly ignored, talk of extra bills and Christmas gifts. But then her 9th month of pregnancy came and we were hit with a flag that was too large to ignore. She had found out I owned a real estate company, and sent a text asking us for a large sum of money to purchase a home, making sure to not leave out how we shouldn't mention any of this to the agency.

You can't imagine the feeling of someone asking you to put a price on a child that is in essence yours, not to mention a child due in just a few weeks. We felt paralyzed by the dilemma, but after a few days of running through every scenario, we knew there was only one decision we could ethically and legally make. We contacted our agency and made the insanely difficult decision to stop the adoption along with the communication. And then we closed the door to the fairytale that never was, along with the door to our never-to-be baby girls half decorated nursery.

Just a couple of weeks later what seemed like a miracle happened. The birthmother was in labor and she wanted to give us her daughter and be done. We were ecstatic! We flew out to PA on a red eye almost immediately and spent the next four days in the NICU with a beautiful baby girl, ensuring the methadone was no longer in her system. We named her, and fed her, and changed her and learned how to bathe her. The birthmother chose to not be involved and did not come around. We were there every day from morning til night.

We were scheduled to sign all final adoption documents with the birthmother at 11:30am on day four. At 11:01am we received a call from the hospitals social worker that the birthmother changed her mind, and there was nothing we could do. We called our lawyers who quickly confirmed the same and then I had to watch as my husband broke inside. Broke in a way that I have never seen before or since.

I made a decision in that moment that would give us the best chance to make it through this horrible circumstance. I decided to go numb. I couldn't let grief, or loss or anger to escape from my body in any way; if we wanted to make it out of there with any chance of recovery from this heartbreak. So shedding no tears, I quickly began to pack our things and arranged for us to leave that self-induced nightmare immediately.

We drove to the hospital to grab any remaining items, were allowed to give one quick kiss goodbye each, and then groggy with grief we found our way to the airport while booking seats on the first flight back to Seattle. And long after we boarded that flight, in the dead of night surrounded by strangers and recycled air. With Jamie passed out from grief next to me, I allowed myself to set the numbness aside and feel again. For just a few brief minutes, I let myself cry into the sleeve of my coat and say goodbye to the daughter we had just lost for a second time.

For about six months after returning home, I made the decision to not be involved in the adoption process any longer. I removed myself from our monthly check-ins, and decided to waste no more energy on a process that almost devastated us to the point of no return. It wasn't until the spring of 2016, that the Marketing Manager from the agency asked if he could come over to talk to us in person. He wanted to check in on us and make some suggestions to refresh our profile.

We agreed and quickly there after we were matched once again. The birthmother, Trisha, was about 5 months along and we arranged to fly out and meet her. We knew from the moment we connected this would be different. She introduced us to her daughter and grandmother, who they lived with, and let us know the baby would be biracial (African American/Caucasian). She took us on our tour of their quaint lakeside town and shared with us everything you could want to know about Michigan. She then told us how good she immediately felt when meeting us, and how she could already tell from just our previous texts back and forth that we were going to be amazing fathers to "our" baby. She also explained how they couldn't afford another person in the home, and that she just wanted this child to have a chance at a life she couldn't give him. Oh yea, and she also let us know we were going to have a baby boy.

It seemed liked we had only just returned home, when we received a call from Trisha's grandmother, informing us that Trisha had gone into labor a few weeks early. It was August 1 and nearly two years from the start of our adoption journey. We dropped everything and began the quest once again to meet a baby that could possibly become our own. We arrived in the middle of the night, and were taken straight to Trisha's room to meet our son. After hugs and some tears, Trisha said she was tired and we should take our son to our room so we could also get some rest. One room away, the medical staff had set up a new parent room just for us. The nurse showed us everything in the space from diapers to formula to extra blankets. She let us know how to get ahold of her if we needed anything at all, then asked our baby's name, wrote Alexander Reneé Trudel-Payne on the board and said goodnight.

After a few days in the hospital we were given the OK to check out. Michigan adoption laws do not allow adoption finalization for 30 days, so we opted to stay in a hotel for the first month after the birth, just in case any hiccups arose during the finalization. It was a fun adventure to learn how to parent together in a small hotel room. We became friends of the staff, built routines around the lobby and room cleanings, and fell in love with our son more and more each day.

A few days before the 30th day, we received the call that all the papers were processed and finalized. We were officially the parents of a baby boy and we were free to go home.

Ander, that's what we decided as a nickname for Alexander, is now almost 3 years old. He's handsome, kind, loves being the center of attention as much as he loves being alone flipping through books or playing with cars, he's meticulously clean, full of energy and overflowing with personality and humor. He is full of life and we are so lucky to be his fathers.

Our adoption journey was definitely far from rosy, and there is nothing I could ever say to prepare someone for a loss like we first experienced. But every time I look into Ander's eyes or hear him giggle from another room, I know that however hard the journey was, it doesn't come anywhere near to the feelings of love and joy we now have with our adoption journey complete.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Just Like Dad: Ways My Kids and I Are Alike

Joseph Sadusky recounts the ways he and his adopted sons are cut from the same cloth.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about my life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

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Gay Dad Family Stories

The Inuit Custom Adoption Program Helped These Dads Form Their Family

After learning about the Inuit Custom Adoption Program from family, Keith and Kevin knew it was the way they wanted to become dads.

Keith Willey, 49, and his husband Kevin Kablutsiak, 42, who live in Ottawa, Canada, first met online in 2010. The couple had their first date soon afterwards in a coffee house and, "haven't looked back since," said Keith. They married on May 22nd, 2016.

Keith, who works as a Policy Advisor with the Canadian Federal Government, and Kevin, who works as the Director of Communications with the Canadian National Inuit Organization (ITK), always knew they wanted kids together, and talked about it early on in their relationship. Still, as gay men, they weren't sure that option would ever be available to them.

"I grew up in the UK in the 1970s so I assumed it would be impossible to have children," said Keith. "I always assumed that I would have to lead a life sort of in the shadows and in secret. Attitudes were so different in the 70s to how they are now that I simply believe that we thought it would be impossible to have a child."

The option materialized for the couple, however, when Kevin's sister, pregnant at the time, approached the two men about adopting her baby through the Inuit adoption process. They knew they couldn't pass up the opportunity.

"Kevin is Inuk and adoption, particularly inter-family adoption, is common in Inuit culture," said Keith.

The Inuit Custom Adoption Process was originally used in the small Inuit societies in the arctic, Kevin explained. It's primarily (though not exclusively) intended as a path for adoption within families. The process is legally recognized by the Canadian legal system.

As Kevin went on to explain, Inuit custom adoption was traditional used to support survival within, what were until quite recently, people living a nomadic lifestyle. It is, in essence, a deeply loving and selfless tradition of giving the gift of life to a carefully selected couple, most often with the guidance of elders (usually the matriarch within a family). If a couple couldn't conceive, for instance, others would sometimes offer their help. Similarly, if a couple lost a child, the grieving parents might be given a baby to help ease the ache of their loss. While most Inuit parents have zero intention of custom adopting their children to other families, adoption continues to be an established method in Inuit regions.

Through this process, and with everyone's agreement, the two men legally adopted Kevin's sister and her husband's child from birth. They named her Abbie. "Kevin's sister and her husband came to stay with us in Ottawa prior to the birth so Abbie was in our care from the moment she was born," said Keith. "She got to come home with us the day after the birth with the legal process taking around 11 months to complete from start to finish."


As far as their parenting styles, the couple say they've drawn on each of their pasts. "Both Kevin and I had somewhat difficult childhoods and have spent a lot of time working through and dealing with childhood trauma," Keith said. "As a result, we are better parents and we continue to look after ourselves and each other as we continue to grow in parenthood."

Though the couple come from different cultures, they said they've had no difficulty developing a parenting approach that works for them both. "I don't think either of us raise Abbie in the same parenting style that we experienced," Keith said, "We both talked and agreed on our approach before Abbie was born and we work well together as a parenting couple."

The result is a parenting style that incorporates some elements of both of their backgrounds, Keith said. "Inuit culture tends to shower children in love and we certainly do that," said Kevin. From English-style parenting, the couple have also borrowed the tendency of English parents to be "pretty obsessive," Keith said, about routines, such as scheduling meals, naps and bedtimes.

Though life was good before Abbie joined the family, "now it's fantastic!" Keith said. "I feel like being a parent was what I was put on this earth to be." Because neither man ever expected to become fathers, moreover, both say they look at parenthood as a privilege rather than a right — a helpful perspective they suggest to other gay men considering fatherhood. "Parenthood is an amazing gift," Keith said, "But remember it's about them, not you — and they deserve the best start in life we can give them."

Though fatherhood came to them somewhat unexpectedly, Keith and Kevin say they couldn't be happier with the way things turned out. "When I reflect on our life together, and where we both came from, it is incredible to me that we are now married, content, and parents to our wonderful panik," Keith said, using the Inuktitut word for daughter. "We are totally blessed."


Gay Dad Family Stories

How One Failed Adoption Turned Into Two Successes for These Dads

Joe and Roberto were heartbroken after a birth mother decided against working with them. But fate (and perseverance!) would soon change their luck — twice over!

Adoption was always the first choice for Joe Motowidlak and husband Roberto Martinez when it came to starting a family. They went the private adoption route, ended up with two different attorneys and had two very different adoption journeys, that lead to two daughters born within a couple of months to one another. Although Joe and Roberto wouldn't change a thing, they consider themselves incredibly fortunate to have the family that they have and are the proud dads with full hearts to their two infant daughters.

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These Dads Had 'Twins' — Just Four Months Apart

Angel and Dan's wanted twins, without the complications of a twin pregnancy — so they worked with two separate surrogates at once.

If you have ever been out late on a Saturday night, you may have high hopes of meeting a handsome stranger, but you probably wouldn't expect to meet your future husband. Angel Mario Martinez Garcia, 45, surely didn't when, five years ago on a very early Saturday morning in Barcelona, he casually approached Dan's Mouquet, 40, and asked him, over many gin and tonics, what he wanted out of life. The nightlife setting notwithstanding, Dan's told Angel he ultimately wanted a quiet life, with a partner and children.

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Politics

Gestational Surrogacy Legalized in New York State

The Child-Parent Security Act, which legalizes commercial surrogacy in New York State, was included in the 2020 New York State Budget signed by Governor Cuomo

Yesterday, a years-long battle about the state of compensated gestational surrogacy came to an end in New York when the Governor signed into a law the Child-Parent Security Act in the 2020 as part of the state budget.

The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

"Millions of New Yorkers need assistance building their families — people struggling with infertility, cancer survivors impacted by treatment, and members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Family Equality Council said in a statement about the victory. "For many, surrogacy is a critically important option. For others, it is the only option. Passage of the Child-Parent Security Act is a massive step forward in providing paths to parenthood for New Yorkers who use reproductive technology, and creates a 'surrogate's bill of rights' that will set a new standard for protecting surrogates nationwide."

Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."


Expert Advice

4 Tips for Single Gay Dads Raising Daughters

Here are some ways to create a safe space for your daughter to discover who she is, with you by her side.

There's nothing quite like father-daughter relationships, and when it comes to single dads, your little girl likely holds a very special place in your heart. From the moment she's born, it's as if you can see every moment of her life in front of you, from her first steps to walking her down the aisle at her wedding. You'll be the first man she'll know and talk to, and you'll be her biggest example of what a loving man looks like. She'll come to you for advice on how to navigate challenges, be independent, treat others and grow into herself.

Your relationship with your daughter may be shaped by your personal history, whether you've been through a difficult divorce or breakup, you've transitioned out of a straight relationship, or you made the courageous decision to pursue surrogacy on your own. Whatever your situation is, studies have shown that children with involved fathers excel more in school and have fewer behavioral issues in adolescence.

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After Suffering a Violent Homophobic Attack, This Gay Dad Turned to Advocacy

After Rene suffered a brutal homophobic attack that left him hospitalized, he and his family have turned to advocacy to heal

Guest post written by Rene and Nejc

We are Rene (35) and Nejc (29) and we come from Slovenia, Europe. I was an avid athlete, a Judoist, but now I am an LGBT activist and Nejc is a writer, who published a gay autobiography called Prepovedano. He was also a participant in a reality show in Slovenia (Bar) and he is an LGBT activist too. Nejc and I met by a mere coincidence on Facebook, and already after the first phone call we realized that we are made for each other. Nejc and I have been together as couple almost one year. We think we have been joined by some energy, as we have both experienced a lot of bad things with previous relationships and now we wish to create and shape our common path.

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